IBM's Watson Takes on Fantasy Football

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2015-08-12 Print this article Print
IBM's Watson

Edge Up Sports announced it is working with IBM to build a fantasy football application powered by IBM's Watson cognitive computing technology.

IBM announced it is helping Edge Up Sports, a sports information and analysis site, develop a Watson-powered application for fantasy football.

Edge Up Sports announced it has become a Watson ecosystem partner and is using Watson’s cognitive computing technology for an app that will help fantasy football team owners manage their team’s performance. Edge Up Sports made the announcement as part of the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $35,000 for continued product development, giving contributors early access to the app and a role in shaping the product.

"The purpose of opening up IBM Watson capabilities to our ecosystem partners via an open developer platform is to accelerate creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and Edge Up Sports is a perfect example," said Lauri Saft, vice president of IBM Watson, in a statement. "IBM and its partners are driving innovation across industries with Watson and while it has been applied to very serious societal challenges such as cancer care, Watson can also be applied in fun ways to improve fan experience in the sports and entertainment world."

Fantasy football is huge in America, with draft parties serving as reunions for people who may only see each other once a year. More than 33 million people play—obsessing over rosters, stats and injury reports for nearly six months of the year. Successful fantasy owners dedicate several hours per week strategizing for fantasy football. And with so much information available, it's difficult to stay current on the latest news and information surrounding players.

Edge Up Sports provides analysis and insights to help fantasy team owners supplement their fantasy platforms on Websites like Yahoo and CBS with information such as insights on an NFL player's Twitter behavior, stats on coaches, and articles from a variety of football analysts.

By embedding IBM Watson APIs from the Watson Developer Cloud, the Edge Up app will access and analyze heaps of football and player related data to generate evidence-based recommendations. This analysis will help fantasy participants reduce the time they spend on research to make more informed team roster decisions quickly.

"Edge Up grabs vast amounts of available NFL data, and with the help of Watson, team general managers are able to make informed decisions and adjustments to their fantasy football roster picks," said Illya Tabakh, CEO of Edge Up Sports, in a statement. "By leveraging Watson technologies, we can transform the way fantasy football is played, and provide a platform that is assisting team owners with the necessary analysis and insights that could increase their chances in winning their league.”

Edge Up's Watson-powered mobile app will provide mental, physical and situational insights on NFL players and pulls from social media interactions, weather reports, injury history, analyst write ups, news stories and more. The app provides fantasy players with answers to questions on their team including: how well the team performs on grass versus turf, whether the team is emotionally prepared for a big rivalry game, and given a player's injury history, how a recent sustained hit might impact a players performance.

IBM has been providing sports analytics for more than 20 years in support of key tennis and golf tournaments and more. Big Blue has been applying analytics in a variety of ways to improve the coach, fan and player experience across a variety of professional sports. This includes better understanding fan sentiment through analysis of the Twitterverse for improved fan engagement decisions and more.

"The IBM/Edge Up deal is interesting for a couple of reasons," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "First, IBM should be able to draw on the experience that it's gained over the past 20 years or so in providing analytics services for sports venues including the US Open tennis championship and Masters golf tournaments. In other words, the company's no novice when it comes to managing/exploring sports information which should benefit the millions of people obsessed with fantasy football. More importantly, though, is that the Edge Up deal is a great venue for demonstrating the value that the Watson platform can deliver, even in areas that most folks might consider to be separate from high tech. That's a key part of IBM's strategy around Watson, and the fact of the matter is that the Edge Up deal should help improve the odds of Watson catching on elsewhere."

Edge up Sports powered by Watson takes fantasy data to a new level. There are thousands of data points captured in every NFL game and even more from channels such as social media. That data is captured, sifted, and crunched into digestible and useful insights to help inform decisions. Edge Up shows users how their roster changes on multiple dimensions throughout the week, so they can make better decisions about their teams.

Through this Kickstarter campaign, Edge Up plans to provide fantasy football team managers with real-time updates on their fantasy teams and an opportunity to connect to a community. Possible rewards for Kickstarter contributors include a season pass for a supporter’s entire league, regular teleconferences, a fantasy football experience with the Edge Up Sports team in Kansas City, and a ticket to an NFL game during the regular 2015-2016 season.


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